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Scrub-Birds: Atrichornithidae

Behavior And Reproduction

Male scrub-birds are famous for their ear-piercing, metallic calls and ability to imitate other birds' songs as they sing to mark and identify their permanent territories. The noisy scrub-bird has two alarm notes and a three-note call, with a loud, variable song of ten to twenty notes, while the rufous scrub-bird employs a loud, repeated chirp and two alarm notes. Females of both species are much less vocal, and often remain silent or make only quiet squeaks and ticking sounds. Although alert and energetic, both species are shy and highly secretive, moving quickly into dense vegetation when disturbed. Due to their underdeveloped wings, which cannot sustain more than a few yards of flight, scrub-birds prefer to run when threatened. During the mating season (spring for the rufous and winter for the noisy), males of both types prance and display with erect tails, much like their close relatives, the lyrebirds. Scrub-birds generally mate for life, and females occupy areas on the outskirts of the males' territories. Territories are usually widely spaced, with males marking and occupying about 2.5 acres (1 hectare) each. Females take sole responsibility for their clutches of one or two eggs, building a domed nest with a side entrance and partially or completely lined with wood and grass pulp. Nestlings take up to one month to fledge, grow the feathers needed for flying.


Many bird lovers have traveled to Australia in search of the scrub-bird, whose elusiveness makes a sighting even more attractive. However, some people have reported that when they finally caught a glimpse of the shy creature, the scrub-bird's alarm call was so piercing and loud that it actually hurt their ears!

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsScrub-Birds: Atrichornithidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Rufous Scrub-bird (atrichornis Rufescens): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, SCRUB-BIRDS AND PEOPLE